FOXBORO, Mass. — Mac Jones went into the 2021 NFL Draft hoping he’d fall to the New England Patriots.
The young quarterback loved New England’s team-first approach, its winning culture. He wanted to be part of that.
He also wanted to play for Josh McDaniels, the Patriots’ longtime offensive coordinator.
During the pre-draft process, Jones met virtually with McDaniels multiple times and pored over Patriots film. After New England selected him with the 15th overall pick Thursday night, the Alabama product raved about his new OC.
“I watched a ton of their stuff with Cam (Newton) and even with Tom Brady when he was there, and I just love what Josh McDaniels does,” Jones said during his introductory video conference. “He does a great job. He’s very creative. And just to watch good football plays on tape is what you want to look at, and good quarterback play. So I always tried to find games from the Patriots in the past and looked at them through the draft process just because it’s a great football team, and to be a part of it now is awesome. I’m looking forward to just learning from those other guys.”
Though he lacks the arm strength and top-end athleticism of this year’s other elite QB prospects, Jones seems like a perfect fit for McDaniels’ offense, which values accuracy, anticipation, intelligence and quick decision-making.
Jones displayed all of those traits during his superb 2020 season, during which he set an NCAA record for completion percentage (77.4 percent) while also leading the nation in yards per attempt (11.2), throwing 41 touchdowns with just four interceptions and piloting an uber-talented Crimson Tide roster to a national championship.
McDaniels tweaked his system to fit Newton’s skill set last season, adding more quarterback run elements to emphasize his mobility. Newton rushed for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns in 15 games, but the Patriots — who lacked viable receiving options outside of wideout Jakobi Meyers — fielded one of the NFL’s least effective passing attacks.
Once Jones is ready to take the reins — head coach Bill Belichick said Newton will remain the starter until either Jones or Jarrett Stidham plays well enough to unseat him — McDaniels’ offense likely will look more like the one New England ran with Brady, a prototypical pocket passer.
Pre-draft Zoom calls with McDaniels gave Jones a sneak peek of how he’ll fit into that scheme.
“What I love to do is just talk football,” Jones said, “so to get a chance to do it with Coach McDaniels is just awesome. He’s a great football mind, and hopefully we can just continue to build a relationship that we started through the Zoom process.”
Those relationship-building efforts already are underway. Less than 12 hours after hearing his name called in Cleveland, Jones was whisked away to New England, where he’ll spend the next several months preparing for his expected future role as the Patriots’ franchise quarterback.
Addressing reporters Friday from a stage erected on the Gillette Stadium game field, Jones was asked about his affinity for McDaniels and why he believes he has what it takes to spearhead the Patriots’ notoriously demanding offense.
“I think he’s obviously a great offensive play-caller,” Jones said. “He tailors it to the quarterback, and he does a great job of preparing everybody, it seems like. I just really enjoyed watching New England on tape when I was in this (draft) process because they do it right.
“But I’ve got a lot of learning to do. It’s very complex. I’m looking forward to just attacking it every day and building that relationship with all the coaches and asking good questions and doing whatever I can to just try to get a little bit better.”